4

To phrase it another way, if a Singaporean tourist walks into a MetroBank or HSBC branch in London, would the bank be allowed by the FCA to open a current account (at the branch managers discretion subject to say their internal KYC requirements), even though the tourist is not living in the UK and his address is overseas?

Or are all banks in the UK not permitted by the FCA to open current accounts for non residents? or it is left at the discretion of the bank?

6

UK banks are permitted to open accounts to non-residents. Whether resident or not, you will need to prove your identity in order to open a bank account.

Your local bank may even be able to handle all the paperwork and set up an account on your behalf if it has a correspondent banking relationship with a British bank.

The biggest four UK banks, Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and NatWest all offer international bank accounts, which are designed specifically for non-residents.

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    Generally the copy of passport should suffice. – Dheer Jul 18 '18 at 7:12
4

Definitely possible (I just did it). Definitely not easy (in my experience).

I just opened an HSBC account in the UK without being a UK resident. I am a UK citizen, however - but reside in the US (dual US/UK citizen). I opened it with zero deposit.

I was in UK and needed to open an account to receive an inheritance. I walked into local branches of Lloyds, HSBC, NatWest - they all said it was not possible. Barclays referred me to their international department (online). Lloyds tried hard to help, but even though they could open an account for a non-resident, they said they couldn't do it for a US resident due to some 'licensing' issue specific to the US. NatWest were simply useless. HSBC, while being somewhat useless, did take my phone number and I did get a call back the next day from a regional person who said it was possible. He contacted the branch manager of a branch he was familiar with and set up an appointment for me (about a week later). After a 2-hour ordeal, I was pretty much set up; I got the sort code and account number about 3 days later. The account has no minimums to avoid fees; very much a no-frills basic account. This is NOT an HSBC International account or US account; it's a standard UK account.

Barclays international, based in the Isle of Man, also were very helpful. They set up a phone and video appointment, and did everything 'online' - including document verification, by holding documents up in front of the laptop video camera! Quite 'modern'. However, over a month later they have not confirmed the opening of the account and they do have something like a 25k GBP minimum to avoid fees (I chose to open both the HSBC and Barclays accounts in case one fell through for any reason).

Overall, I found the in-branch staff to be somewhat useless, and the online 'chat' help equally useless. I spent hours 'chatting' with an HSBC support rep all to no avail. It's obviously an area where they get very little exposure.

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  • Never mind the foreign situation. I once tried to open a British Pound account at the HSBC branch in my own city in Canada and got an incredible run-around. When I finally got to see someone, they asked me many questions that seemed irrelevant, warned me that they didn't want to be used as just a temporary transit location, and then when I thought they were ready to take my cheque (£50,000) they asked me if I'd like them to set up an appointment next week for me and my wife to discuss whether we'd be able to open an account. I said "no", and gave up. – Ray Butterworth Dec 17 '19 at 15:25
3

It is legal for a UK bank to open a bank account for pretty much whoever they want to.

Whether they actually will open an account for a transient is a different question. My practical experience with banks in the UK is that is very hard to get a bank account unless the account holder has residency in the UK, has a permanent address and preferably a job or other verifiable "explanation" for their "source of funds".

So, the bottom line is that it is legal, but you may have a hard time successfully doing so. Plan on answering a LOT of questions, and I mean a LOT OF QUESTIONS. I have seen UK bank questionnaires that are 10 pages long and that is for a resident. I can't even begin to guess how carefully they would scrutinize a non-resident.

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  • The UK banking system sure is antiquated. In the US, I can open a savings account online in about five minutes at a bank I have no relationship with. – RonJohn Sep 16 '19 at 17:00
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    @RonJohn I can do (and have done on a number of occasions) the same here in the UK (a year or so ago I opened an ISA [a tax-efficient savings account] with an institution I hadn't previously dealt with and transferred £5k to it, all in about 10 minutes, using just my mobile phone in a pub). The long forms are, I suspect, are for when the applicant is new to the banking system as a whole, and has no other bank accounts. – TripeHound Sep 17 '19 at 7:30
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    @RonJohn It's the US banking system that's antiquated, in most respects. I can transfer money (with no transfer fee for sender or recipient) to anyone else's UK bank account and they will have the cleared funds in their account in a matter of minutes. – Mike Scott Dec 17 '19 at 9:42
  • @MikeScott given the amount of banking fraud, I do not see that as a Good Thing. Anyway... we've got Zelle, which is instant and irreversible. – RonJohn Dec 17 '19 at 13:44
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It is literally impossible to do this; unless they get 50,000 pounds or more. I have checked with the top 4 banks who all claim to offer international accounts. they will NOT give you an account. They say you need proof of address, but then if you are not there full time they will not allow you an account. It's a vicious cycle, and I"m not sure how you're supposed to pay all the bills fpr for your property without an account. If someone knows how, please enlighten me.

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  • Does the UK still have money orders? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Money_order – RonJohn Sep 16 '19 at 16:54
  • At least from within Europe you can pay your bills using a SEPA transfer. Choose "shared costs" and neither party has to pay surcharges. – MSalters Oct 11 '19 at 19:47

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